Launching The Earl in Black Armor

A launch party on St. Patrick’s Day 2019 was perfect timing to formally release my latest Irish historical novel, The Earl in Black Armor. But just as the earl could not have put on his heavy armor without many helping hands, I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help.

I could not have published this book so successfully without similar and most generous help. Click To Tweet 

Launching The Earl in Black ArmorWhen I first started writing this book I expected it to be easy and quick, because I’d already studied much about the period and I was only covering a time span of seven years. But it turned out to be the most difficult and complex book I’ve written to date – and also the most rewarding accomplishment.

Even though I’m a former journalist and experienced writer, I knew this book needed many eyes on it to make sure it was right. After revising my manuscript numerous times, I used several beta readers, plus two editors, and two proofreaders who found the errors I could not see, and who pointed out the places where I needed more clarity. 

I was able to test drive parts of our Amelia Indie Authors network. I had help finding exactly the right people to assist me at each stage: they supported and encouraged me when I felt frustrated and celebrated with me when the final product was in hand.

But that is just the beginning. My Amelia Indie Authors co-founder,  author Andrea Patten “had an idea.” (If you get to know her, you’ll get used to hearing those words.)

A capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 Click To Tweet

Andrea’s vision and her natural capacity for building connections led to a remarkable opportunity for me: to lead a literary tour in Ireland in 2020 — exploring the sites traveled in my books and bring those scenes to life in real experiences for readers. What other authors have had such a tour? How about Maeve Binchy, and Frank McCourt? It is a tremendous honor to be able to join such renowned company. 

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Click To Tweet

The Earl in Black Armor is a story of conflicts: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, courage and fear, honor and disgrace. Because of the work I put into it, and the help I have received, I have no conflicts at all about promoting this book with confidence. I know it can compete successfully — not only with other indie books in its genre but also with those traditionally published.

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silver-colored letters spelling 'dream', a white notebook with a grid cover, pen and laptop on a wooden surface. hand on laptop.

What Happens When You Follow Directions?

By Dr. J.

a writer's workstation featuring letters that spell dream, a white lined notebook, laptop and a pen

When you begin a new part of your life like writing, and it involves everything you know nothing about, what do you do?

If you are the former academician like me, you begin research. Learn about what you want to do. Find experts. Get guidance. Make a plan. Execute. Let’s see what happens when you follow directions. That’s what I did.

LEARN ABOUT IT 

I attended a local writers’ group where I met Andrea Patten. When I talked with Andrea, I was days from completing a basic writing course with a New York editor for my writing genre erotica and erotic romance. The editor suggested I use three specific websites where I could share my work and become known in the writing world. 

What did that mean? 

First, it meant I’d be writing for readers. And second, I needed a website to link my stories to the other locations. How do you get all of this up and running? Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world

Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world. Click To Tweet

CREATE THE WEBSITE

The first part of the plan was securing a website. Even though I knew it was essential to have a site, I did not understand how to go about creating it. A guide is vital. There are things they know I didn’t. Frankly, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Andrea broke down my needs in bite-size portions. 

You can’t learn everything at once. For me, this was a world I had never lived in before, not writing, not IT, and not, social media. As a retired sex therapist, I had steered clear of all social media locations.

The first step in securing the website was to buy my website domain name-DrJAuthor, a combination of my pen name and my new identity. Given my writing content, it was helpful to learn that some hosting sites were better than others for my needs. I settled for HostGator and their built-in Weebly Website Template. Andrea had recommended Bluehost and WordPress, but I liked what I saw with HostGator. Notice, I didn’t follow directions. 

After that, I created a picture that would be my visual recognition, my avatar, to be used on my website and other places. Once the website was in place, social media platforms were next. I learned that my name and my avatar needed to be consistent across all locations in the digital world.

That was my smooth start until it wasn’t smooth anymore. A year and a half into my website, HostGator did not renew its contract with Weebly and I lost a way to create my website content or access my old content. Luckily in a short time, I made many author friends talented in many areas. One such person is Mischa Eliot who in one weekend, rebuilt my site in a WordPress location. If only I had followed the directions of my author platform guru.

But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers. Click To Tweet

CHOOSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

After the website, I tackled four social media sites. It seemed overwhelming. Check out my names. Facebook: DrJAuthor; Twitter: DoctorJAuthor; Instagram: drjauthor_; and Pinterest: drjauthor. I put those forward specifically to show that sometimes even with your best efforts, it doesn’t go as planned. What did you notice? The ideal would be to have the exact name match — then it is always easy for folks to find you. But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers.

a person writing on a piece of paper with a notebook, phone and cup of coffee nearby

If I had a full list of all the digital places I would end up, then I could have checked them. But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are good at planning, you can secure all the names at the same time for the future. Notice I only listed the ones I started within my first year. I continue to grow my platform to other places.

LET IT WORK

There is so much to share. While Andrea Patten has been the spectacular guru on “all things start-up,” I attended Nancy Blanton’s workshop on Author Branding. Did you notice my purple essence? It’s always about learning more. My branding will be my next discussion.

Follow the directions. Five things created. The website and four social media places. Do the work. Write blog posts. Be social. Make friends of readers and writers. Click To Tweet

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author photo of Dr. J, Author

Dr. J. arrived at her writing career after being a condom packer, sex educator, sex therapist, and finally a college professor of human sexuality. Using her vast knowledge and experience of sexuality and the mind, she continues her education efforts to integrate positive sexuality into the human experience through her stories. She writes romance and erotica. Living the island life, Dr. J. plays petanque, knits, and supports all the visual and performing arts of the area.

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flowers, keyboard, pen, journal in geometric arrangement on white background

Scattered I Was – A Blog is Born

by Trienah Meyers

blog desk with pink rose, above a white laptop keyboard sitting next to a teal notebook and post-it, along with a golden pen

I don’t remember why, but I decided to try writing blog posts. Scattered I was. I had three streams of ideas but the first one, I think, was about my now-deceased dad and his penchant for wandering our home without his pants. This gave rise to a stream of being the “sandwich” between parent and child, all needing care. And I started writing blog posts about Torah portions because I had been writing them for presentation in temple at a time when we didn’t have a full-time rabbi. And of course, there was food. So clearly, scattered I was. 

And then there was the election of Barack Obama to his first term as president. There was a veritable storm of commentary by the “losers” that their votes didn’t count. As a constitutional democracy geek, that was just not ok. So I wrote an op-ed piece which became a blog post.  It inspired me to write randomly about all manner of things that had meaning to me.

As a constitutional democracy geek, that was just not ok. Click To Tweet

These streams, sometimes active and sometimes defunct, either through laziness or life intrusions, stayed separate and random.  This made it very hard to get people to follow my blog or be interested in my posts. This was dispiriting and sometimes made it difficult to go on writing unless something specifically inspired me greatly.

blogger's golden metal fountain pen

And then the magic happened. I reconnected with an old friend who, miraculously, was mentoring authors. She also happened to be a social media wizard. She shepherded me through creating a single website that contains all my blog posts and people can search the site for whatever they are most interested in.

And then the magic happened. I reconnected with an old friend who was mentoring authors. She also happened to be a social media wizard. Click To Tweet

Then, after learning how to create a Facebook “author” page (rather than a personal page) I learned how to connect my blog to my social media. Finally, I’m learning to use Twitter in a way that increases my presence – this is an ongoing process and my resistance has been a bit high.

The bottom line is that I went from a being good writer with no focus and no following to a blogger with a good website and pretty good social media skills, all thanks to Amelia Indie Authors.

Meet Author Laurie Robertson – an AiA Interview

Amelia Indie Authors (AiA) is pleased to present an interview with Alaska-based author Laurie Robertson. Visiting Amelia Island in February to see family and attend the 2019 Amelia Island Book Festival. Laurie also attended the February 14th “we love indie authors” celebration we co-sponsored with the Book Loft. There she won one of several drawing prizes: a personal interview published on our blog. The benefit is ours, however, in that we get to learn more about this lovely woman.

Author Laurie Robertson leaning on a bike trail sign in winter

 AiA: Welcome to our screen, Laurie! To start, please tell us a little about your background, and what brought you from Alaska to Amelia Island?

LR: Detroit, Michigan was my hometown, and in the mid-1970s—because of economics and the lure of adventure—I settled in Alaska during the oil pipeline era. I received my teaching degree in secondary science and master’s degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.

I’ve just retired from 35 years of teaching in Alaska. It was a great career that covered a range from teaching in the rural Athabaskan villages of Rampart and Nikolai to the urban setting of Fairbanks. I have spent most of my career in alternative education working with students at risk for dropping out of high school.

Some of my family lives in Yulee, Florida. My sister and brother-in-law own two stores on Centre Street, in downtown Amelia Island, so I’m fortunate to be able to visit. People around the island are friendly, and I love strolling along the beautiful ocean beaches — especially in the morning fog.

AiA: What was your impression of the Amelia Island Book Festival. Do you attend other similar festivals? Any recommendations here for other indies?

LR: Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended

Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended. Click To Tweet

LR: The Book Loft indie reception was a great way to meet several authors and publishers from the area. The writers’ workshop provided a wealth of information. It had two tracks to mix and match, so participants could individualize the program according to their needs and interests. I also would highly recommend the manuscript critique that was available there. Steve McCondichie was very helpful with his recommendations from a publisher’s perspective, and his commentary was valuable. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. 

AiA: Did you always write, or is writing a new interest for you? How did you come to it?

LR: I’ve been a poet since I learned how to write but never thought about writing a novel until an idea came to my head. I was about 30 at that time and did not realize I would publish a book. I wrote the first draft in longhand. I spent part of three summers traveling around the west gathering information about the Oregon trail and the Native American culture. It was fascinating, and with that, along with my handwritten version, my novel was born. 

AiA: Where do you find your inspiration?

LR: Storylines appear in my head seeming from out of nowhere. I used to be an avid reader, but presently, it seems I’m always choosing between reading or writing. Writing, predominately, wins out. Sometimes, to develop characters, I refer back to parts of my favorite movies or a TV series. I study certain actors to see how their facial tics or body movements portray a specific personality type or motivation. I love concentrating on writing deep characters, so I’m a people watcher in real life situations.

AiA: How long did it take you to complete your first book? What were the speed bumps or stumbling blocks along the way?

LR: I’m embarrassed to admit this because it took almost twenty years to publish my novel, Crossing at Sweet Grass. Not only was I was raising a family and working full time as a high school teacher, but I had another journey beside traveling the Oregon Trail. That journey was learning my writing style. At first, I had no idea about the skills it took to author a good novel. I had to learn about writing several drafts, point of view, and cutting out pages and pages of flashbacks and campfire stories. My biggest speedbump was myself. Some years I put away my manuscript and didn’t work on it, but now I encourage authors to write daily.

silhouette of a woman smelling a flower on the book cover for Crossing at Sweet Grass

AiA: What is your writing process like?

LR: I have a grown family, so I have more time to write. I usually go to Jazzercise first thing in the morning, then come back home and sit at my desk or kitchen table to write. If I’m doing first draft writing, it’s pretty much a stream of keyboarding for about four hours a day. If it’s the second draft, then I spend the time to fill in plot and characters. I like to grammar check on the second draft. While I’m contemplating what the characters would do and say, I get up and move, watch the birds at the feeder or take a walk. There are ski and hiking trails right outside my door. I move to the next chapter if I get stuck. Sometimes I write scenes that have nothing to do with the particular section I’m working on. They get filed in a separate folder on my desktop, and I’ll usually cut and paste them into other chapters. Early on I realized writer’s block inhibits me only when I worry what other people will think about my writing. If I don’t dwell on that, my characters come alive on their terms, and I keep writing. 

AiA: How did you find your editor, and what did you think of the editing process?

LR: I love the editing process as it demands a spectrum of emotions; it makes you cry, it makes you quit, and it makes you begin again. My strength is in the rewrite, so I have surrendered to that process as a positive aspect of writing. A dear friend is a content editor, and she patiently reads my material and has wonderful insights. I have a few beta readers; one reads across several genres, one is a retired psychologist, and another has a great sense of humor. These avid book lovers give me needed feedback and insight. For my first two books, I used a line editor with an indie publishing firm and found it immensely beneficial. Now for my zombie action series, I’m looking online for content and line editors since I plan to direct publish.

AiA: What drew you to Alaska, and does the location influence your writing content, style or process in any way? 

LR: Even as a child, I wanted to go to Alaska. I love the wilderness adventure lifestyle. It’s hard to believe, but I don’t mind the cold weather. I love snow skiing and the arctic colors during twilight. While my stories don’t originate in an Alaskan setting, the Native American characters in Crossing at Sweet Grass were inspired by my time teaching in the rural communities and travels.  They are lovely people rich in cultural traditions and ways of knowing the natural world.

Alaska has a wealth of artists and authors. A fun writers conference to check out if you’re interested in coming to Alaska during the summer would be the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference June 14 – 18.

AiA: Your first book is historical romance, and your second is poetry. How did you choose these genres?

LR: I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher; that’s why I like science. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme.

I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme. Click To Tweet

My challenge as a writer is to describe my books since my writing style naturally crosses genres. The Ascension Circus Comes to Town is like a poetic novella with seven chapters. It took a long time to gently combine my poems into a circus theme that makes personal growth seem like fun and adventure.

Colorful circus scene on the blue cover of The Ascension Circus Comes to Town

AiA: What are you working on now? Do you have a new book underway? Please tell us about it.

LR: My newest writing venture is a zombie series with a main character named Savannah. It’s been very satisfying to write, but again, it’s more complicated than straight zombie genre; it’s women’s fiction that a man also would like. What makes this series so invigorating is the human psychology behind survival, connection, and healing. Zombies are a metaphor for human fears and losses. They are the backdrop amid stories of social psychology. How do we as a people go beyond the darkness and despair to live together and make a better life? I don’t have a title yet, but I do have my 26 words that describe it:

Imagine you’re young, beautiful and alone in a world of zombies. What would be your journey? Join Savannah’s self-discovery through survival challenges, heartache, and love.

Thank you so much for having me here.

AiA: Thank you for sharing your story with us, Laurie! We wish you great success with all of your writing endeavors. Please visit us again!

— AIA

Traveling with the Luck of the Irish

OK, OK… We know everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s day but we’ve got announcements that may extend that for you. First off, we hope that all local folks know about today’s party at the BookLoft featuring Nancy Blanton and her new release The Earl in Black Armor.

Are you Irish enough... oops... we meant lucky enough to travel to Ireland with author Nancy Blanton? Click To Tweet

But besides that? Readers everywhere will want to know about Nancy’s latest adventure: she’s leading a trip to Ireland. An intimate group of about 16 adventurers will wind through many of the sites featured in Nancy’s delicious historical fiction — and she’ll be on board to talk to you about them.

Click the link below to get all the details.

BLANTON Ireland TOUR